What are fat days?
Does your scale go up at certain times of the month? Almost overnight you seem to put on an extra kg or two. It’s a “fat day.”
You’ll freak out about it, wonder what’s going on when you’ve been doing so well and then after a few more ‘fat days’ the weight drops off again. For some women, the weight gain is clearly linked to an upcoming period. But some women put weight on in the middle of their cycle.
What’s up with that? Have you actually gained fat? Or is it fluid retention?
Unfortunately studies have not found a clear explanation for why we gain weight cyclically. The good news is that it’s likely just fluid retention for most of us. If you have regular cycles, you can identify your pattern with a little self quantification. This article will help you find and understand your patterns so you can stop freaking out every month!
What time of the month do you gain weight?
For many women, weight starts to climb in the second half of their cycle after ovulation and culminates with a peak on the first day of their period. Several studies have found that peak fluid retention is on the first day of menstrual flow and then it begins to drop off again. Not every woman follows this pattern though.
Some women gain weight at ovulation. For example, I can put on 1 kg (a few pounds) at this time, but I have clients who put on even more than this. During this time I feel way more bloated and fat than I ever do before and during my period. Just before my period my weight may creep up again about 500g but not as much as during ovulation. Ovulation-related weight gain disappears within a few days but for your own peace of mind, it’s helpful to know if this is your pattern.
What causes weight gain before your period?
Most weight gain before your period is caused by fluid retention. Studies have been unable to identify a clear link between estrogen and progesterone and fluid retention but many suggest that it is probably hormonal related.
However, for some women emotional eating and actual increases in hunger before their period can cause some of that weight gain. Some women find it more difficult to achieve regular bowel movements during this time and this also adds to the bloating and weight gain already present.
How to stop monthly mental meltdowns
Unfortunately you probably won’t be able to stop the cycle of weight gain every month. Making sure you exercise, eat well and manage your stress will help. Some women need extra calories and benefit from more carbohydrates in the premenstrual period. Make healthy choices during this time – it’s not an excuse to binge on junk food. Keep it clean so that any weight gain is not actual weight gain but rather just your natural monthly fluctuation.
If you are eating well and looking after yourself, then the best thing you can do about monthly weight gain is to track it.
When you know your weight gain patterns, you can stop having mental meltdowns every month. It always surprises me how little women know about their own menstrual cycle. There are so many reasons to track it, but for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on how to track your weight.
How to track your weight
You need to know when you gain weight cyclically so you can predict it, recognize it and stop freaking out about it. I highly recommend that all women use an app to track their cycles and weight. There are many free period tracking apps that will help you identify your patterns.
For Android users, my favourite app when it comes to tracking weight is the Period Tracker, My Calendar (by Simple Design, free from the Google Play store). Period Tracker is great because you can track your weight and scroll back through months, even years, worth of data to identify your patterns. Here are some screen shots from when I was using the app. You can see how my weight creeps up mid cycle as indicated by the yellow area (but overall during this time period I lost 1kg).
If you are an iPhone user, Clue is a pretty cool app with a modern interface that let’s you track a whole lot of period related things, including weight.
For many women, these apps will allow them to identify the exact day of their monthly cycle that their weight goes up. For example, on day 18 of my cycle for the last 3 months, my weight has gone up between 600-800g. With that data, I can stop worrying when it happens. It’s annoying but it’s not something to get upset about.
Staying on track
Almost every woman I have worked with has freaked out at some point about a random extra kg or two that they put on almost overnight. Knowing what time of the month they gain weight cyclically would save a lot of heartache and frustration.
Even when you know your patterns, you can sometimes still feel disappointed when you see the scale go up. You’ll know what’s going on so logically you shouldn’t worry about it. However, we put so much power in the scale that emotions prevail and we can’t help feeling a bit gutted. That’s normal too.
The key is to not get side tracked every time you gain a bit of weight. When it happens remember you aren’t superwoman and weight loss is never linear. As long as your weight is trending down over time, you are on the right track.